How To Explain Your Ideas To Your DRUMMER

How To Explain Your Ideas To Your DRUMMER

Tommaso Zillio

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how to teach drummers

If you play in a band - especially if you are the songwriter in the band - one of the problems you have is to communicate to the drummer what you want them to play.

Of course, it would be optimal if your drummer could read your mind and instantly understand your vision for the song but what can you expect from somebody who can barely sign their name correctly? that's not a realistic expectation.

This could indeed be a frustrating process because you are your drummer are speaking different "languages" I mean, you probably speak English and he speaks Caveman. And as any sane person would know, the sane and constructive way to deal with that frustration is to tell hilarious drummer jokes take a deep breath and explain your vision clearly.

But here’s the problem: many musicians who aren’t drummers have difficulty effectively communicating their vision to their drummer. That's because the typical system used by most musicians is to use phrases like, “It should go dum-deedee-dum pap pow”, or the classic, “You’re doing a zoom pop plap where you should be doing more of a floom plop pow”.

From the point of view us guitarists and songwriters, this method of explaining ideas should be perfectly understandable by your average, reasonably educated adult. Except, these are drummers we are talking about, so...

But let's see things from the drummer's side for a moment (yes, I know that that would require a lobotomy, but bear with me for a second...)

Fact is, pretty much every drummer loooooves being patronized told how to play their instrument by people who don’t play their instrument.

And yes, it is also true that the sounds of these vocalizations have no discernible resemblance to the sounds a drum kit makes, and have no connection to any type of underlying pulse or rhythmic context.

So your drummer has a point! He just can't express it coherently ... I mean, if your drummer was able to articulate their feelings, they'll probably say:

"Dude! First of all, you are trying to micro-manage me. Then you can't even bother to learn how to communicate with me? Heck, learn how to write some rhythmic notation. And would it really hurt to practice with your metronome occasionally? Your timing is awful!"

Then again... drummers... so probably what they will say instead is: "Hulk smash!!" followed by an angry drum solo.

That means, it's on us to go above and beyond in our explanations of what they should play if we want to be understood. It's our responsibility as the smart ones in the band. Well, at least the ones with more-than-two-digits-IQ musicians to learn to communicate effectively with other musicians.

So, if you want to perfect your ability to restrict your drummer’s creative output communicate your ideas to your drummer, watch the video below, and evolve past nonsense vocalizations like ‘flopty-pow’, ‘pata-fla-fla’, or ‘abra-ca-dabra’.

P.S. No drummers were hurt in the making of this email but not for lack of trying

Something that can help you and your drummer understand each other is if you get to know more about rhythm. Everybody thinks they know a lot about rhythm but - fun fact - they don't! A great way to make sure your rhythm abilities are up to snuff is to take our new course Ultimate Rhythm Mastery

Video Transcription

Tommaso Zillio 0:01
Hello internet, so nice to see you! This is a video of our series band problems where we use music theory to solve the problems you may have in your band. And these don't want to talk about today, it's a super common problem, let's say you are a guitar player, and you just wrote a song. And this song has a very complex rhythm.

Maybe it has an odd time signature or strange accent. And it's fun to play with freedom to create a song, okay, it's actually one of the thing you want to do. And then you go meet your band. And then you have the challenge of communicating the complex rhythm to your drummer. And make no mistake here, the drummer has to understand the rhythm because the drummer is responsible for around 50 percent of the impact of the song.

If the drums are right, the song is gonna sound good, the drums are not right, you can do whatever you want, the song is not going to sound good. So it's absolutely vital that your drummers understand the rhythm that you've wrote, how do you communicate a complex rhythm to your drummer, there is more than one way depending on how your drummer and what your drummer can and cannot do. A student asked me exactly that, how can I go communicating a 13/8 rhythm with a complex accent to my drummer? This is the answer I gave him.

Speaker 2 1:26
And my question is about teaching your drummer, how to play specific beats over your songs. So I compose full songs, right every instrument. And sometimes there are parts of the songs where I can tell my drummer, like just play half, what do you call the half of time if you have time, full time, double time, and 3/4, 6/8, 4/4, etc.

And and he just follows in to work with and he learns the song. You know, the more repetitions he does he learned but but sometimes I have a part that's like 13/8, and you have to accent the fifth eighth note because the riff accents also the fifth eighth note, etc, etc. I can like I don't know, write it down on the whiteboard or show him the notation. But the problem is making him like count this. Understand this. And I would like to ask you if you have any good method of communicating it to such musicians that it's it's easy to understand.

Tommaso Zillio 2:42
You're asking me if we can communicate and or teach a drummer. Your question was doomed from the start. Now I'm joking.

Do your drummer read standard notation? Ie Yes sir.

Unknown Speaker 3:01
We are talking standard notation for drums. So

Tommaso Zillio 3:04
yeah, yeah, no, no, no. No. If you read the rhythmic notation, yeah, okay. Okay. So you could potentially write this down in standard notation. If you give the that to him. Is it going to work? Or you don't see this working?

Speaker 2 3:18
Yeah, it is going to work. I want to I just like it to work like faster. Because it's, it's, I mean, as some people, people who are good in math, for example, who are dumb, don't have a limited, limited beliefs about their ability, mathematical abilities. They can counter it and it's okay.

Tommaso Zillio 3:43
But limiting abilities or limiting belief meaning counting up to 13. Sorry,

Speaker 2 3:54
And, I mean, maybe it is psychological, it's, they they have they have a hard time just really doing it.

Tommaso Zillio 4:04
Okay, well, you can find alternate form of notation if you want. So you can just break up the bar into the accents. Okay, so like, I know 123 123 123 123 12 12 It's not 123 123 123 12 12 That will be the 13. Okay. Okay, so three groups of three and two groups of two, and we get to the 13. Okay, so just tell them tell me three plus three plus three plus two plus two, then he counts this way 123 123 123 12 12 123 123 123 12 12 Or something like that, like that. Any combination of accent will work.

But rather than giving him standard notation where this thing looks horribly complex, you give them the number immediately. So now you have a section with that and you repeat it six times and then we have these in that and then maybe the understand faster, will be one more So in other way, it's too late for him. So you could, you could have an idea on what kind of drums you want there. Okay. So thinking your mind was sounds you want and try to reproduce as best as best as you can on your guitar.

And see if he understands that you teach him the song. And other idea is write the drum part on a computer, and the whole thing, whatever, record the backing track, give it to him and go like learn this for next time. Okay, that actually works. You can do this with any with any musician or singer by the way, okay. And it's a way for him to have an idea. And he just has a track that he can practice together with, we can double check if he's doing the right thing by just practicing a little bit of track, you can use all those systems, so you can write it down and teach it to him and give him the track that will be even faster.

Makes sense. Now when you write the notation, you don't have to use only the standard notation, you can also just write down the accents. Okay? Stuff like you're changing the chord before the bar line. Just just make the makeup a tie to the northern Make, make the tie and put an accent on the note just before the bar lines, then he understands I had to change it to put the accent on the change of the chord. Things like that. So you didn't have to hear it. You didn't have to write every single hit.

You just need to write when the accent power and let him figure out what to do with those accents. That will be the way I will go about it. I will do all those things. Okay, now the study I have here, the master media story. It's about George Batlas you know, unless you know that George Bellows will never write a four four rhythm in his life. These albums are indicate the sequences of numbers.

Okay one because apparently what happens I haven't verified this myself but I mean, a message that being sent by law so you know, there's well as entered the studio with a printout of the drums drum pattern, where he notated every single hits that they want.

Every single hi hat it every single cymbal hate all them all the kicks all the drum everything painstakingly notated, okay, in standard notation, then they just, they just need to find a drummer who can read the damn thing at high speed and play it on the spot, which is typically the problem I find a certain point he went through five drummers in the same album because they were burning out, okay, or stuff like or something like that.

Okay, you have to balance the artistic integrity like I want these with the level of detail you want to give to your drummer and your drummer can take not all drummers are Mike Portnoy, from Dream Theater, all Dream Theater, drummer. Not all drummers can do that in real time, or can manage counting different kinds of bars when after each other with ease, they can no learn.

But it may take some time and intelligent little bit of patience with them. Okay, so do all the three things. Ask your drummer what he wants to do this sort of thing and see what he's using and he's using only one or all three of them. And keep doing that. Make sense? Yeah. Good. That's, that's, that's that's the answer. All right. Fantastic. Thanks.

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